BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. - The parents of a Blue Springs, Mo., boy who killed himself after being bullied reached a landmark settlement with the school district and another parent over their son's death.
Kim Scarlett and Randy Myers filed the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their 12 year-old-son Brandon. In 2007, Brandon hanged himself in the family home. His parents believe he was driven to suicide because of the constant tormenting he faced in school.
"He seemed normal, Brandon, that day he died. He seemed perfectly normal. Watching TV. Just a normal day. Eating cereal. Talked about having a cup stacking contest at school. Was I going to go to it? I said yes," Scarlett said. "Just shocked to come home to that."
The lawsuit alleged the Blue Springs School District did not properly train employees in preventing bullying, failed to protect Brandon from bullies and allowed bullying to flourish in the district.
Brandon was born with a cleft palate and had undergone several operations to correct it. As a result, he also had a speech impediment and had difficulty pronouncing some words. The family's lawsuit, which was filed in federal court, accused the district of failing to give Brandon the help he needed to correct the impediment and also failing to stop harassment from other students.
The lawsuit highlighted several incidents of bullying. One incident happened while Brandon was a third grader at John Nowlin Elementary. His parents claim Brandon told them several students threatened him during recess saying they were going to "fill up the hole" in his face.
They said those same students held Brandon down while other students shoved dirt and grass in his mouth and nose. The lawsuit alleged not a single teacher came to Brandon's aid.
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Court documents also state Brandon was harassed throughout his fourth grade year. When his parents confronted the school district, they said school district employees told them there was no bullying problem at the school.
Brandon was allowed to transfer schools, but his parents said the bullying continued. It came to a head when the father of another child drove his child to the Myers home and vandalized it.
On February 22, 2007, Brandon left a suicide note saying he was tired of his life. He then hanged himself.
Attorneys for the Myers family said information they uncovered showed the district purposefully hid and destroyed evidence in the case. That evidence included a writing journal and writing portfolio which they believe would have provided details about their son's abuse.
The financial terms of the settlement are confidential. However, the school district is required to institute an annual Bullying Awareness Day within all district buildings.
Two administrators are also required to undergo additional off-site bullying awareness training.
"Money will never, ever, ever undo what has been done and the goal of this lawsuit was not ever money. It was always to affect change and send a message that children are precious commodities and they absolutely have to be protective," said Daniel Thomas, attorney for the Myers family.
In addition, the father who drove his son to the Myers home was ordered to write a letter of apology to Kim Scarlett and Randy Myers.
41 Action News contacted the Blue Springs School District, which referred us to their attorney. He told us by email he would not be providing a comment about the settlement.
The Myers family has several events planned to raise attention to the problem of bullying in schools. You can read more about their upcoming events at www.buckthebulliesforbrandon.org.